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PROBLEMS AND SOLUTIONS UNIQUE TO LAW ENFORCEMENT

Part VI

PROBLEMS AND SOLUTIONS UNIQUE TO LAW ENFORCEMENT

God Bless America
And our troops, law officers and all of Her guardians.
Land that I love
Those who know this love are truly the Blessed People.
Stand Beside Her, And Guide Her,
As God stands to safeguard us,
we stand to protect the Blessed People while bowing our heads in thanks
for His protection and guidance.
Thru The Night With A Light From Above.
Day shift to mid-watch to night shift, we are humbled by His radiant
supremacy and power.
From The Mountains, To The Prairies,
Forging straight up from the great prairies of gilded grain,
like a church spire paying homage
to the heavens, to symbolize our faith in Him.
To The Oceans, White With Foam
Seas of Blessed People of all colors, each seeking
the purity only He can bestow.
God Bless America, My Home Sweet Home.
May God continue to bless the Blessed People
and their protectors as this
is our homeland forevermore. (1)

Preface

After a search of Google and multiple dictionaries, this writer was unable to come up with a concise and definitive definition of the terms law enforcement officer or police officer. Sources for these terms extensively defined what LEOs did do or what was expected of them, but no actual meaning of the combined words. This might be part of today’s problem facing communities and their LEOs. Perhaps, a public relations campaign might aid in understanding police-related issues. Therefore, for the purposes of this treatise, let this be the definition: 

The American Law Enforcement Officer is a man or woman epitomizing theologically inspired (2) moral and ethical values, including the inherent traits of bravery and common sense; entrusted by a physical-boundary-set political division of society with the authority, duty, obligation and power to maintain tranquility, protect property and persons and investigate and arrest anyone violating the codified laws of this physical-boundary-set political division.  

American police officers are NOT the enemy, nor are they hand-holders, social workers, jack-booted-thugs or heroes. However, evil-doers may deem them the enemy. They may become hand-holders when comfort is needed or social workers when helping the indigent and even jack-booted-thugs when breaking down doors to protect the protetees from evil-doers … and when heroic acts are required, they’ll be there. 

Whether peaceable or confrontational the American Police Officer does not adjudicate interactions based on race, color, creed, beliefs, sexual orientation or national origin.

Are we community operatives, security agents or American police officers? There is a difference in who and how we are perceived not only by our own consortium, but by everyone else. It seems clear that politicians, many police chiefs and the public, per se, have assorted opinions and views on the definition. A look back at unique, historical campaigns that could be adopted into police work along with some new concepts might be a solution to answering the question and surviving the attacks by well-intentioned, but possibly misguided, powers. 

“Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.” (3) A unified front in any battle is generally more successful than splintered factions.

American police officers are facing unprecedented challenges to their image that might best be alleviated by a public relation campaign. This acerbated perception (4) has been propelled by a small contingency of malcontents spread out over the entire nation. It appears this venom has been perpetuated via social media that was picked up by and given legitimacy by the general media and some politicians. 

This un-American venting includes: Wokeness, Political Correctness, Cancel Culture and Critical Race Theory. (5) Whether these concepts and statements are true is not the point of this dissertation, only to recognize them as a force that has allowed a hurtful and negative belief in the image (and in turn the effectiveness) of the nation’s keepers of the peace — and for the purpose of fostering countermeasures. 

Goals & Aspirations

Responsibilities of an American police officer are varied and may differ greatly from within one political subdivision to another. Typical duties relate to keeping the peace, law enforcement, protection of people and property and the investigation of crimes. In addition, officers are expected to respond to a variety of situations that may arise while they are on duty. 

Rules and guidelines dictate how an officer should behave within the community, and in many contexts, restrictions are placed on what the uniformed officer wears. In some countries, rules and procedures dictate that a police officer is obliged to intervene in a criminal incident, even if they are not on duty. Police officers in nearly all countries retain their lawful powers while off duty. 

Society’s goals, objectives and even morals and ethics change with the political winds of the time. Though police functions and duties have tended to resist these changes, who and what a police officer is has not. Until more recently, policing has been the granite boulder, the wall, the standard to which society, per se, has relied upon to keep check on its (society’s) directions if by no other reason than reflection — e.g., seeing themselves as they should be and how they should conduct themselves. 

During the past decade, an escalating push by significant portions of the populace has been working to bring policing in line with the social makeup of local, as well as national, structure and character. In other words, elected officials, reacting to society’s pressures, have come to believe that if police agencies are representative (proportionally by race, creed, religion) of the community they regulate, all of society’s problems (crime, discrimination, racism) will disappear. That’s a great goal and wish, but it’s only Pollyannaism.  

The goals and aspirations of LEOs are based on arresting criminals and keeping the peace — words or wording to that effect are in most state’s bylaws. In terms of non-related law enforcement issues such as homeless, illegal immigrants, drug overdosing, suicides and juvenile concerns, the political arms of society have more and more tried to make these matters a problem that should be the responsibility of the police. 

The result has been to overtrain LEOs — trying to mold them to become social workers, drug interdictions saviors — so they can become everything providers, all of which tends to reduce their effectiveness (time available) to enforcing the law. 

History

Back in the 1950s, fledgling hot rod clubs were branded as dangerous, reckless and criminal. Such Hollywood productions as “The Wild One,” “Rebel Without a Cause,” “Hot Rod Gang,” et al., depicted guys (there weren’t many female protagonists) flaunting the rules of the road as they raced and crashed on the public asphalt. There were, however, a significant number of hot-rodders who just wanted to legally race their souped-up cars on dedicated dragstrips. The problem was convincing local governments and financial backers that the building of a dragstrip would allow these hot-rodders a place to race other than on the street. 

One method these operators and builders of tire-smoking machines used was to improve their image by having members of the clubs drive the roads looking for motorists who had run out of gas, broken down or had a flat tire (cars and tires were far less reliable back then). The member would aid in any way possible and then issue a courtesy card with wording to the effect: “You have been assisted by a member of the _______ Hot Rod Club, a car club dedicated to safety.” 

Soon the word spread, with the help of favorable media coverage, that these speed enthusiasts might not be so dangerous after all. Some clubs had rules that if a member was ticketed for speeding or racing on the streets, that person would be tossed out of the club. As for the impact of the courtesy cards, that is subjective, but drag strips did proliferate. 

This writer was a member of the Knights of the 20th Century hot-rod club, and in conjunction with The Southern Ohio Timing Association, used these cards to help convince the Cincinnati City Council to allow construction of a drag strip in 1957. 

In the late 1960s and early 1970s police, per se, were being subjected to attacks on multiple levels including radical anti-police groups such as the Black Panthers, Students for a Democratic Society (today’s Wokeness) and The Weathermen. (6) Anytime police were observed interacting with civilians, it was often assumed the cop was either harassing someone or fulfilling proverbial and nonexistent quotas. 

This perception has carried over to today. Negativity toward American police officers has been exacerbated by the ubiquitous cell phone videos of a few violent acts of cops misusing their powers, resulting in LEOs taking a hammering not only in the mainstream press, but by legislative operatives who are responding to public (social media) pressure yielding public relations that has not been favorable. 

Traditionally, during non-criminal encounters police issue verbal warnings, formal written warnings or just say words to the effect of, “Have a nice day.” Some officers hand out conventional business cards that displayed the agency’s contact and the officer’s name — the viewing public almost never knows of these informal and user-friendly contacts.

Suggested Solutions

1. Courtesy Cards
Taking a page from the hot-rodders playbook, police departments could issue Courtesy Cards (2”x3” +/-) to each officer that includes on its face a place for department’s ID, the officer’s name and contact info. The reverse would have boxes to be checked with wording to the effect:

  •  You have been assisted by a member of the ______ Police Department. Any comments or suggestions you might have will always be welcome.
  •  Your motor vehicle is parked in a dangerous position and as such is a violation of local laws. Please park in a safer location in the future. Thank you.
  •  You have been detained for a violation of a local law causing your safety as well as others to be in jeopardy. Please be more careful in the future. 
  •  You have assisted the ________ Police Department. Thank you. 

Rather than issuing verbal or formal warnings and thank yous, this informal “courtesy card” will not only show the observing (videoing) public that some form or written action is taking place, but the person receiving this casual note will be more appreciative — all good for public relations as well as getting a positive message across. The courtesy card gives the LEO a non-confrontational option that leaves the civilian with evidence that he or she was not cited while at the same time demonstrating to observers that a written record was being made. 

In other words, witnesses will assume the person detained was not getting away with something. To the recipient of such a “courtesy card,” it will serve the purpose of showing a softer side of policing. As word spreads by various media, a police officer might be able to say, to quell a confrontation, “Do you want me to issue a Courtesy Card or shall I proceed with a ticket/arrest?”

2. Weekly Newspaper-Style Column/Social Media Posting

There are many aspiring writers and illustrators available due to the downsizing of print newspapers, creating a significant number of qualified but untapped talent available. A police agency might open its blotter/cold cases to a select few unpaid volunteers to produce a regular “This is Your Local Police Department” newsletter. Possible columns could include cold-case info that might trigger someone’s memory or conscience to come forward. Other options might include: 

  • Illustrated, police-intensive short fiction stories that paint LEOs in a favorable light; 
  • Interesting closed cases; 
  • Verbatim selections of the criminal and traffic laws; 
  • A portion of each column could contain a list of legal terms, police jargon, radio codes;
  • Something well done by a local LEO that is not normally reported in the mainstream media. 
  • In addition, the column could be a format for requesting their readers and editorial boards — periodically — to ask for response to the question: 
  • “What would you do if you were the police chief of _____ (the world)?” 
  • “What changes, regulations, qualifications of recruits would you like to see implemented?” 

Getting the public involved by soliciting citizen input might be a big assist, but only with the caveat: No whining, complaining, fault-finding, name-calling — only suggestions on how to improve the workings of law enforcement. A picture (illustration), as the saying goes, is worth a thousand words. Graphics, created by local artists, depicting positive images of LEOs would be an added benefit not only to law enforcement but to the public as well as the illustrator. 

In conjunction with or separate from this column, an up-and-coming lawyer might be encouraged to pen general legalities on various police issues for this column. On a local level it might work well to have the legal column co-written by a municipal or sheriff’s PR officer. For the national stage (USA Today, New York Times, Wall Street Journal), writings by a representative of interchanging federal LEOs (FBI, ATF, DHS, etc.) might be most beneficial. 

The editors of the major publications surely know the importance of law enforcement — they just might need a little prodding to convince them that it’s their personal and family’s safety that is at stake, also. A letter on NACOP stationery seeking their help could be a game-changer for all.  

3. Marketing.

“Advertising has the power to create awareness, the power to set the agenda, the power to suggest and influence, the power to convey new information, and the power to persuade.” (7) I might add … and the capability to change attitudes, images and beliefs. The First Amendment to our Constitution clearly states: “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech …” (8) 

Though not an absolute, every citizen (including members of NACOP) is allowed to speak and write his or her thoughts freely without fear of government reprisals or restrictions. Therefore, nothing precludes police chiefs from requesting others to devote time, space and money benefiting the images of law enforcement. 

Of course, commercial advertising is expensive and not in the budget of even the big-dollar departments, but that doesn’t mean police agencies couldn’t utilize this power of marketing by soliciting funding, artwork and editorial messages from private- and publicly-owned corporations. 

Suppose, for example, a major advertiser (GM, P&G, Anthem, Google) could be encouraged to purchase space on Facebook, Netflix, etc., or even outdoor billboards with creative graphics and simple wording to the effect of, “Thank you, American police officers,” or “American cops are the world’s best” (with or without a credit line to the buyer of the ad).

Advertising agencies and greeting card companies would be excellent sources for the text of these unpretentious, entertaining and non-threatening communications — say, an ad showing the Ghostbusters being subjected to criminal aggression — with the subtitle, “Who ya gonna call?” Ad copy is the key to any successful campaign. 

The most effective ads are simple, to wit: The Volkswagen was the “People’s Car” of Nazi Germany and this image limited export sales well into the 1960s, compelling an ad campaign to change their image. Ads began appearing in magazines and billboards such as the ones showing the regular “Beatle” accompanied by just two words: “Gas Pains?” Or the VW Mini-bus filled with nuns in full habits with the caption: “Mass Transit.” 

Honda faced the same obstacles when trying to promote its motorcycles to the non-Hells Angels types. Honda’s ads, in similar distribution, displayed a brightly painted motorcycle with whitewall tires being ridden by preppy-types and even Santa. The copy read: “You meet the nicest people on a Honda.” There is no question these campaigns changed images and gained support that resulted in a reversal of public perception of once questionable product images, leading to economic success of the corporations. (9)

Consider ads developed to redefine Woke (call it Wake) to mean: To be aware of and resist/protest injustice instigated by a small minority of misinformed citizens. Reclassify Cancel Culture (call it American Culture) as: Engaging in praising/supporting police officers. Political Correctness, redefined.

Formats of these local and or national ads could be published in any and all types of media including, but not limited to social media, radio, TV as well as display ads in newspapers such as the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, USA Today, People Magazine and Mother Earth News. The goal would be to reach a large and diverse audience. Inasmuch as this advertising space is tax deductible, the buyer of the ads will be making for a safer community — safer for them as a corporation as well as safer for their employees and customers. These subtle, image-generating messages should, of course, be in conjunction with NACOP’s blessings. 

Marketing doesn’t have to be exclusive to the civilian world. An ad campaign in police journals such as Police Magazine, American Police Beat, FOP Journal, et al., with positive and encouraging messages/images (not long-winded editorials, but short, concise targeted ads) could be most beneficial in keeping the proud, proud. After all, we’re not perfect, and reminding ourselves of this shows we know and are addressing our shortcomings, serving the dual purpose of letting our detractors know we know. 

4. Religion

Inasmuch as the First Amendment, in addition to freedom of speech, also guarantees freedom of religion, (10) perhaps NACOP could generate an ongoing letter writing campaign to religious organizations encouraging them, as it preaches adherence to the laws of G-d, to also include pontificating the importance of complying with the laws of man and those who are responsible for applying these edicts to maintain peace and protect us. 

There are many ongoing faith-based programs between cops and pastors aimed at acclimating and educating LEOs to understand religious groups. (11) The suggested program would be different inasmuch as the religious leaders would be requested to merely tender to their parishioners the importance of supporting law enforcement, obeying the laws of man and accepting that even police are not perfect. 

The power of the pulpit cannot be denied especially when multiple faiths, races and political powers are captive audiences. The anti-police crowd would be hard-pressed to come out against their pastor. 

5. Applications

Police scanners are mostly utilized by the media and require hardware usually in the form of a handheld special radio. Cell phone companies might be encouraged to create software apps for smart phones to grant citizens the ability to listen to police calls (local, state, federal) allowing greater transparency. This ability to hear direct communications from police dispatchers (not necessarily officer’s individual channels) could greatly enhance faith in official police parlance and acts. Building in a time delay to preclude townsfolk from responding to details before police have secured and cleared the scene could be a requirement. 

Summary

Applying a definition to the term police officer/law enforcement officer is a step in identifying the problem. Portraying this definition to the public is the next step in reestablishing the image of our most sacred defenders. Suggestions on how to accomplish this include: 

  • Encouraging/partnering with electronic means to develop smart phone apps
  • Seeking educational direction from clergy
  • Marketing via many sources and methods and utilization of a “courtesy card” to be issued by LEOs when appropriate.

Notes

(1) Lyrics by Irving Berlin, Annotation by Chuck Klein

(2) This is no more a government endorsement of religion than acknowledging G-d on the face of our currency, as part of our Pledge of Allegiance and is always an option in oaths of office or court testimony. 

(3) Grunig, James E. and Hunt, Todd. Managing Public Relations. (Orlando, FL: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1984).

(4) A belief or opinion, often held by many people and based on how things seem: a thought, belief, or opinion, often held by many people and based on appearances:

https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/perception

(5) Woke: To be aware of and resist/protest injustice in a nation/system one believes to be unjust. Political Correctness: Verbally bashing others for holding opposing views. Those who don’t join in are also targets regardless of truth, fairness or objectivity. Cancel Culture: (Political Correctness on steroids). Engaging in abandoning/trashing physical, written or verbal historical content such as libelous postings to social media, destroying statues and/or anything deemed to be not acceptable by Political Persecutionists. Critical Race Theory: A concept that promoters believe K-12 students should be taught that America has been and still is inherently racist. 

(6) This period of nation-wide racial tension gave impetus to the rise of the Black Panthers a nation-wide racially divisive and gang of angry, violent, black men who vowed to kill LEOs (black or white) – and did. https://www.britannica.com/topic/Black-Panther-Party. The SDS (least violent of the anti-authority groups), held a passionate, if somewhat naive, belief that a nonviolent youth movement could transform U.S. society into a model political system in which the people, rather than just the political elite, would control social policy. The Weathermen were an off-shoot of the SDS bent on violence to change America. https://www.mtsu.edu/first-amendment/article/1201/students-for-a-democratic-society

(7) https://www.decisionanalyst.com/services/powerofadvertising/

(8) The 1st Amendment: https://www.chuckkleinauthor.com/Page.aspx/380/america-s-framework-for-freedom.html#12 

(9) Volkswagen: https://www.vintag.es/2017/03/23-remarkable-volkswagen-ads-of-1960s.html 

Honda: https://drivetribe.com/p/hondas-iconic-advert-and-how-it-F0Fk-YdvRJ-kb4nNXbWVXA?iid=RFyA9xqfRRmVteJN84VQPw

(10) ibid The 1st Amendment (11) Few police officers are religion experts. Desert News, 31 Jul 2019 https://www.deseret.com/indepth/2019/8/1/20755777/few-police-officers-are-religion-experts-that-can-create-big-problems#pope-francis-is-greeted-by-philadelphia-police-commissioner-charles-ramsey-as-he-arrives-at-philadelphia-international-airport-in-philadelphia-saturday-sept-26-2015

Chuck Klein is a former police officer, licensed Private Investigator (ret.), active member of International Association of Law Enforcement Firearms Instructors (IALEFI), former Level 6 firearms instructor for Tactical Defense Institute (www.tdiohio.com), author of: “INSTINCT COMBAT SHOOTING, Defensive Handgunning for Police”; “LINES OF DEFENSE, Police Ideology and the Constitution”; POLICE (definition portion of Encyclopedia of Science, Technology and Ethics, Macmillan Reference USA, an imprint of Thompson Gale ISBN 0-02-865991-0). Information about his books and e-mail contact is available on his web site: www.chuckkleinauthor.com

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